Monday, January 30, 2012

Off With Their Head(lines) Revisited

Newspapers are dying. We have, for better or for worse, decided that McNews is better, more digestible and easier on the soul in the form of Fox broadcasts, USA Today, or blogs and websites. The impending demise of the daily could also stem from readers becoming tired of bad news and papers failing to realize there is--even among the we-are-doomed junkies--a failsafe point. We can only tolerate so much war, so much financial and intellectual decline, so many stories depicting the frailness of the human condition. We are burned out on sadness, meaningless crime, governmental stupidity or insensitivity. We're sick of it and we're not gonna pay for it anymore. And neither, it seems, are the advertisers. Even without looking at statistics, anyone who’s been reading newspaper for a decade or more can see the handwriting on the wall is fading.  The want-ads section is down to a few pages, mostly legal notices with here and there ads for junker cars, stray pets and one-room rentals in crappy neighborhoods.
And yet... I worked for the Washington Post for years. I'm a print guy. I like getting up in the morning, rain or shine, and reaching for my paper deep under the azalea bush where the delivery guy unerringly tosses it. I no longer read the business section--why get depressed when you don't have to--and wonder where a lot of Post reporters got their training. I decry the loss of objectivity. I regret to dependence on spell-check programs and the loss of copy editors. I wonder when newspaper owners decided readers wanted a reporter's opinions more than they want facts. I mourn the passing of such elegant writers as Sarah Booth Conroy, Paul Hume and Jonathan Yardley; the end of the book review section; the melding of social and art pages into an incomprehensible miasma of critique, bad writing, and far too much space devoted to the atonal music of the latest Japanese Lesbian rock band.
I will miss the shorts buried in the A section--the French and British nuclear submarines bristling with enough fissionable material to destroy the earth three times over. They collided in the English Channel (how can such a thing happen? And what does that tell us about the end of the world?). I will miss the gossip section telling me all about people I neither do--nor want to--know. I like the daily crossword puzzles that will never, ever, be as friendly on a computer screen, and I lament the fact that current puzzles are truly written for dolts whose literacy is limited to two-syllable words. I enjoy the corrections, those little boxes buried beneath the fold on page three that say, "Oops, we blew it." I particularly like them when they recognize that the photo in yesterday's late edition was not Mrs. Crosley Boyd-Smith but Mr. Crosley Boyd-Smith who always wears a kilt. And the editors regret the error. I miss Dick Tracy, Broomhilda, Steve Roper, Mary Worth, Dear Abby and her twin sister whose advice columns influenced a generation of brides and took to task a nation of mothers-in-law.
And I wonder, when the newspapers are truly gone, what will we use to start kindling fires,  line our parakeet cages or wrap fish?

Sunday, January 22, 2012


It snowed here a couple of days ago, nothing to speak of if you lived anywhere even a bit more northerly, but enough of an occurrence in Virginia to snarl traffic and cancel community events. This was not a blanket but rather a friable surface dotted here and there by the paw prints of small mammals. The roads became icy and the air whiny with the sound of spinning tires. I loaded my 15 pound sack of kitty litter into my car just in case.  I have an ancient German-made vehicle the bad manners of which are legendary in the snow so I travel with my own supply of salt and abrasives.

There was a time when I liked snow; I appreciated its ability to briefly cover the visually unattractive, and I liked the cottony silence it brought at night. When I first came to this country, the barest hint of snow was enough to bring kids and adults into the streets with sleds and skis, and I remember going to a hilly park in Washington DC where adult children vied to find the most outrageously inappropriate way to slide down a hill: flattened cardboard boxes were popular, as were plastic trashcans, abandoned doors from housing projects and a bare bottom or two. One group brought an old cast-iron bathtub that careened down the hill, flattened small trees and came to rest in a creek at the bottom of the incline.  Now, I’m told, sledding is forbidden in many places, just as is ball-playing in county parks without adult supervision. Too many lawsuits, too many lawyers.
Last year, according to the Vermont State Police, two Massachusetts men faced criminal charges after they got into a fight in the town of Jay when one of the men threw a snowball at the car of the other. Apparently, 49-year-old Charles Dow of Newton, Mass., lobbed a frozen projectile at a moving vehicle belonging to 39-year-old Robert Earley of Nantucket, Mass.  Police said Earley stopped the vehicle, got out and cursed and assaulted Dow, who was treated for his injuries at the North Country Hospital in Newport. Earley was cited into court on a charge of simple assault. Dow was charged with disorderly conduct.
Last year, fifteen people were arrested in downtown Washington for having a snowball fight, and a scandal ensued when a photograph taken during the melee showed that a DC police detective had drawn his gun after being hit in the back by a snowball. These are strange times.
It has now been disproved that no two snowflakes are alike.  Indeed, a lot of snowflakes are exactly similar.  Also, Eskimos do not have a hundred words for snow, just a dozen or so like everybody else. Legends are being shamelessly dispelled.

I was reminded by a French friend that the last time there was a serious snow fall in Paris—an event that occurs once a decade, if that—both of the city’s snow plows were out of commission, and their two drivers on strike for better wages and benefits. Somehow there’s nothing surprising about that.

Monday, January 16, 2012


So I am a gadzillionaire; I own your mortgage, the loan on your car, your insurance company. I own Visa and Mastercard although few people know it’s essentially the same company; I own the cable TV network and the internet server. My consortium has a majority share of the corporation you work for and I run the bank that has your checking and savings account as well as your IRA.  My gadzillionaire friends who are part of the highly exclusive GREEDY (Get Rich  Even if Everybody Detests You) country club own just about everything else you and your neighbors depend upon.

I flat-top mountains, burrow deep into the earth, divert waterways, pollute the skies and the earth. I cut down forests, pump oil from the oceans, and am developing new techniques to wrest natural gas from where it lies miles underground. I have homes all over the place, a stable of expensive cars, a truly remarkable wine cellar, a museum quality artwork collection, and a 25-year-old trophy wife who has had plastic surgery and every implant allowable by law. I have moved my manufacturing industries away from the US and plopped them down in third world nations to avoid rules and regulations. I depend on cheap labor and outsource whenever possible, even as I know that doing so creates customer dissatisfaction. No matter.  My greed and that of my fellow club-members is all-encompassing.

I have a problem, though. I’ve just discovered that you have $100. I will not rest until I can get that small amount from you. That you have $100 is almost a personal affront. It fosters my insomnia. In fact, though getting my hands your $100 will in no way better my life, I cannot, will not, be happy until I have it.

My gadzillionaire friends feel pretty much the same way about your life savings. They want it and will stop at nothing to get it. They will line the pockets of politicians, influence judges and lawmakers, hire barely legal entities so as to wrest this money from you. They will advertise and sell you inferior products, and promise investment returns that will make your head spin. They will work on your greed, which just because it is smaller in scope than theirs is no less meaningful.

You, in turn, are trying to make your $100 into the equivalent of Jack’s magic beans. You want a beanstalk that will grow so quickly it will impress the GREEDY club members so they’ll invite you to join their ranks. Deep down you too want to become a captain of industry with a surgically enhanced wife and a new Audi 4WD Quattro; you’d do anything to enjoy the luxuries these people have, and so, unwittingly, you and they are in an awkward dance, a pas de deux (or paso doble if you’re from the Southern Hemisphere) of hunger and self-indulgence. You want the big deal they’ve attained; they want whatever small holdings you might have.

Which brings me to the real subject of this blog. Salary and wealth caps.

Does anyone need to earn 400 to 600 times the salary of an average wage earner? This is common in the US, though not in Europe where taking home 10 to 20 times your worker’s salary is considered more satisfactory.  Is there a reason to give multi-million dollar bonuses to CEOs who drive their companies into the ground?  Wouldn’t the overwhelming majority of us be perfectly happy making a maximum salary of $10 or $12 million?

Well jeezy peezy, I would. You could even take a couple of the zeros away and not hear a word of complaint from me.

A long time ago, I went to a Chinese buffet and at the table next to me sat a monstrously obese man. Every seven or eight minutes, he would struggle up out of his chair and waddle to the steam-table to fill a new plate of dumplings, fried shrimp and kung pao chicken. After the fifth such trip, the owner of the restaurant walked to the man’s table, took the plate from him in mid-chew and said, “You go home now!”

That’s the way I feel about the plutocrats. You go home now!  You’ve eaten enough!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Best Sold By...

Sometimes in the mid 1800, legends have it, a frozen mammoth was discovered in a mass of ice in Siberia. There’s nothing unusual there, as the frozen remains of these giant creatures have been found regularly in Europe and North America. What made this finding special is that the animal was freed from its icy tomb and butchered, and the meat sent to the kitchens of Russian czar Nicholas I, where it was prepared and fed to the guests of an imperial banquet.  Some choice cuts also ended up in Paris where a famous restaurant served a mammoth meal to it best clients, along with a fine selection of wines chosen for their elephantine bouquets.

I bring this up because I recently cleaned my freezer and found there some delicious frozen items dating from the 90s, which I plan at some time in the near future to thaw and enjoy. When I mention this to my friends, they turn up their noses and mutter something about ‘sell-by date,’ as if I should throw out several pounds of excellent steak, chicken, and other victuals from as yet unidentified sources just because it’s a bit old and frozen solid.

Actually, I have to confess a degree of confusion about the whole concept of sell-by dates. I know people who regard these as eat-by dates, which makes no sense at all. If I look in my pantry, I find canned goods with unfaded labels dating from the last millennium, and these are perfectly edible. I might have second thoughts about the clam chowder from July, 1997, but the vegetable and chicken noodle soups? The cans show no evidence of botulism or other nasty growth, and the tops are not buckling from internal gas pressures. Plus, every post-apocalyptic novel I’ve ever read has the survivors foraging through destroyed homes for canned goods, which sounds a lot more appetizing to me than eating your pets or cannibalism. 

What I think is that all these dates are part of a monstrous plot foisted upon us by the agricultural, meat and canning industries to get people to consume more, a planned obsolescence of food, as it were. I disagree with this concept wholeheartedly. I say freeze, and freeze long. Our grandchildren should be able to fearlessly explore our freezers in the future and find sustenance there.

And speaking of exploring, the Explorer’s Club, famed for both its mandate to promote scientific discoveries and its annual black-tie fund-raising dinner and cocktail banquet held at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City, routinely features an adventurous array of atypical eats and bug-filled dishes. Just some of the things on the hors d'oeuvres menu in 2008: Yak Wellington, sweet-and-sour bovine penis, maggot-covered strawberries, scorpions on toast, earthworm stir-fry, mealworm maki, and assorted insect appetizers.

No expiration dates there, I bet. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Unified Theory of Failure

Is there anyone out there, even in the farthest reaches of the nation, who still thinks we’re not in trouble? No? Good. This is a step in the right direction, as is—finally, what in the world took you people so long?—the mobilization of a youth that see its future jeopardized by the incredibly rapacious plutocracy that presently rules us.

We, as a nation and as a planet, are on the verge of catastrophic failure. Giving our present situation no more than a cursory glance, here are a few facts worth noting.

  • We are bankrupting the middle class, traditionally the backbone and savior of any society.
  • We are cheating our children’s generations out of their future in order to finance our short-term comforts.
  • The CEOs of some failing financial firms that are bankrupting the country are getting merit bonuses that range in the tens of millions of dollars.
  • We are allowing a new generation to become disassociated from itself, incapable of communicating thoughts longer than a few syllables, and happier in front of a television or computer screen than on a field of play.  
  • The infrastructure of our nation—roads, bridges, ports, the electrical grid, river, dams and even our nuclear reactors—is crumbling.
  • We have been in a constant state of war for more than half a century. We are spending trillions on arms that do not work, shields that fail to protect our warriors, and overseas adventures that both impoverish and lower us in the eyes of the international community.
  • We have wasted billions of dollars on a fruitless war of interdiction against drugs. Addiction rates are higher now than ever as illegal drugs grow deadlier and more potent.
  • We are killing the planet upon which we depend, denuding it of forest, destroying its sea life, harvesting its greenscape and depleting its aquifer.
  • We, on a national, state, local and personal level, are being crushed by debt even as we strive to buy and spend more.
  • We trust the untrustworthy with our savings, accept the unacceptable from our representatives, and have become generally so uninterested in our own future that we continue to re-elect the thieves and malingerers who, through their incompetence, have led us to our sorry present state.
  • We have created a welfare class of small farmers and dairymen.
  • We are so resistant to change that new social programs meet with instant failure. We are guilty of contempt prior to investigation.
  • We are the most murderous nation in the First World thanks to our inability to control firearm purchases. Additionally, our lack of gun control is poisoning neighboring nations.
  • We are paving the nation with an impermeable layer of asphalt that does not allow the soil to replenish itself with water. We are polluting the waterways with so many estrogens that marine life is mutating. We are allowing non-native species of plants, animals and other species to procreate and invade.  
  • One in ten of us is unemployed and we are losing our homes to the banks. Another ten percent is under-employed.
  • Our jails and prisons house mostly non-violent criminals, with a high percentage being citizens guilty of minor drug-related possession.
  • Our health is diminishing. We eat crap, become obese, suffer from a variety of ailments ranging from diabetes to heart failure, all the while allowing millions of citizens to endure life with no health insurance or safety net.

In a recent Washington Post op-ed piece, Harold Meyerson noted that while “European CEOs might make 11 times as much as their workers, American CEOs make roughly 200 to 300 times as much as their average employees’ salary.” This is called greed, in its most basic form. While the CEOs salaries skyrocket, those of the average workers are essentially flat.  In fact, for perhaps the first time in American history, a son’s salary will approximate that of his father’s. This means that the country is no longer growing, and that the merit-based entitlements that made the US the powerhouse it once was, well, those are gone too. 

The behavior of the country’s corporate leaders would make robber barons of a century ago blush and the truth is, we deserve better as individuals, as a nation, and as communities that across the country struggle to survive. As the national elections approach, the question of greed should be on everyone’s lips. Because greed is killing us. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Little Middle East Snit

Usually I don’t get worked up about stuff like this. The world of geopolitics abounds with absurdities that range from North Korean leadership to Franco-German dialogue. The threat by Iranians made a few days ago against a US Navy aircraft carrier strike force to stay out of the Persian Gulf or else, however, is so risible that it’s bound to become fodder for late-night comics and back-of-the-book editorialists. Think Chihuahua versus Great Dane…

Admittedly, a few thousand years ago, what is now known as Iran was a hotbed of civilization. Back when Europe was nothing more than a sad collection of warring tribes, and roughly at the same time as Asians first crossed the Bering Straits eventually to become early indigenous Americans, the first Iranians already had thriving urban and historical settlements. Persia, as it had long been called, had been invaded and occupied by Greeks, Arabs, Turks, Mongols and a host of other assailants, all of whom influenced the region. Empires succeeded empires, eventually giving way to Cyrus the Great, a pivotal personality who after defeating the Medes, Lydians and Babylonians created an empire larger than Assyria. Much later, Darius I of Persia began building temples and palaces at Persepolis and actually dug a precursor to the Suez Canal between the Nile and the Red Sea. So yeah, history, they got plenty of.
Fast forward to early 1979 when Ayatollah Khomeini, living the plush life of a coddled exilĂ© in Paris, returns to his native Iran after the overthrow of  Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, commonly known as the Shah. Iranian “students” take over the US embassy in Teheran and for 444 days hold 52 hostages. A disastrous rescue attempt costs Jimmy Carter the US Presidency.
Meanwhile, just across the street, so to speak, is Iraq, a made up nation with its own deep history and a profound desire to play in the Middle East big leagues.  Iraq invades Iran and begins what is to become the longest conventional war in the 20th century, and a costly one at that. Half-a-million military and civilians die and nothing much changes. In the midst of this comes the Iran Contra affair, a clandestine action not approved of by the United States Congress. This depressing footnote in US history began in 1985 when President Ronal Reagan’s administration supplied weapons to Iran — already a sworn enemy — in hopes of securing the release of American hostages held in Lebanon by Hezbollah terrorists loyal to Khomeini. The US took millions of dollars from the weapons sale and routed them and guns to the right-wing "Contra" guerrillas in Nicaragua. The Contras were the armed opponents of Nicaragua's Sandinista Junta of National Reconstruction, following the July 1979 overthrow of strongman Anastasio Somoza Debayle and the ending of the Somoza family's 43-year reign.  Are you following all this?
Khomeini dies in June 1989 (his coffin tipped over and the body spilled out), and his successor Ali Khamenei rules for awhile. Leaders come, leaders go; time flies. The Americans invade Iraq, and though Iran stays neutral, it allows Iraqi warplanes and refugees into the country. Remember now: just a few years earlier, Iran and Iraq were sworn enemies, not BFFLs.
During 2005 and 2006, Iran claimed that the US and Israel were planning to attack, mostly because the civilized world feared Iran’s civilian nuclear energy program which many are still pretty sure could and would lead to a nuclear weapons program. And, of course, there are issues of crude oil, and some saber rattling for electoral purposes in the US. 
In 2009 the Iranian elections are marred by large protests. Reformist opponents allege voting irregularities and by 1 July 2009, 1000 people had been arrested and 20 killed in street demonstrations. Khamenei, of course, blames foreign powers for fomenting the protest.
So now it’s January 2012, and Iran isn’t that much of a player.  In fact, other than oil and the nuclear weapons threat, nobody takes the country too seriously. It does appear that 30 years of economic sanctions have had some impact and the Iranian man-in-the-street, generally not a bad guy, would like things to be normal, but the government, hanging on for dear life, decides to make international headlines by threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz through which about 20 percent of Middle Eastern oil flows. Oil prices briefly surge, and Iran gets a small windfall of much needed cash. More threats follow, not taken too seriously by anyone, which pisses off the Iranian nuclear wannabes.
So here we are today, with a wart of a country trying to dictate its will in an area that is already a tinderbox…I say, to hell with diplomacy!  A third-rate windbag nation run as a dysfunctional theocracy incapable of adhering to even the most basic tenets of Islam, its chosen faith and the one it claims to represent, is threatening the US? Guys with beards and dresses? C’mon, you’re serious? Really? Nah…

Monday, January 9, 2012

Banging Against the Low Ceiling of One's Own Talent

Some days it’s easier to write than others. This morning I woke up with the germ of an idea for a book I‘ve been working on. Nothing earthshaking, just a nice little plot twist that might have amused the readers. By late this afternoon I’ve come to realize that either the idea has no legs, or that it has lost its appeal in the hours between nine and five. Or perhaps my mood has changed, and what looked inviting this morning is now at best silly.

This happens routinely. Writing is, for better or for worse, an emotional endeavor. It’s hard to write happy stuff if you’re not. Georges Simenon once said that “writing is not a profession but a vocation of unhappiness.”  If this is true (and I believe it is) the one must ask, why write? Normal people don’t have the need to tidy their thoughts and thrust them upon others. Perhaps this is yet another addiction, albeit a marginally socially acceptable one. Pondering such imponderables can rapidly escalate one’s unhappiness with the process. Is there anything as unglamorous as hunting and pecking at a keyboard all day in the hope that something worthwhile will emerge?

Does writing cause depression or vice versa?  Simon Brett, a bestselling writer, wrote in the quarterly journal of the Society of Authors that, When the writing’s going well, the author’s is the perfect life. When it’s going badly, there’s no one else to blame.” He believes that the day to day “grind of writing is … conducive to depression,” since “to do their job, writers have to be introspective, gauging their own reactions to life, projecting what other people’s might be, riding the switch-back of their mood swings to create fiction. They do feed on themselves. It’s an emotional business. A new idea, a surge of energy that lasts a paragraph, a page, a chapter, can make you feel you’re producing the definitive work that is going to redefine the parameters of the novel as an art form. Yet within a sentence, when the right phrase won’t come, you can be in total despair and about to scrap the whole project.”

And then of course, writing is solitary work. There’s no feedback, no attaboy, no reason to doubt that only an overactive ego could lay claim that anything produced is worth reading. I know that in recent times I’ve stopped hounding others to read my stuff. This came after the realization that this is tantamount to asking them to commit time to something they might not enjoy.  Or that’s the way the thoughts pattern themselves. Of course, who knows, they might enjoy it, but this is not the concept to emerge first, if ever. Additionally, writing is a day-at-a-time process that must begin anew each morning regardless of one’s outlook on life. Says Brett, “For most writers, any time spent away from the keyboard or pad of paper is basically cheating. You should be writing.”
But of course can’t write all the time. Brett quotes Michael Ratcliffe in a Times review of Graham Greene, “Writing itself, of course, is an ideal form of escape, unless you happen to be a writer, in which case there comes a time when you have to escape from writing, too.”
This is difficult for a lot of us. Our characters are more interesting than we are, their adventures more captivating, their dialogues wittier than anything we might have to say in ordinary conversation. Probably, they’re better looking as well,  and more attractive to the opposite sex.  “Eventually,” writes Brett, “you’re going to have to get back to reality. Because, apart from sometimes being the most fun you can imagine, writing fiction is also the most exhausting activity you’re ever going to undertake.”
The trade is riddled with failure, and “authors who feel they’ve failed don’t have to look far for confirmation of that opinion. Bestsellers lists are everywhere, bulging with the names of other writers. As if the living weren’t bad enough, you also have the genius of the dead to contend with. Cast your eye along your bookshelves. It doesn’t take long, looking at names like Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens, Tolstoy or Wodehouse, to feel your head banging against the low ceiling of your own talent.”
In spite of all this dire stuff, writing remains the art of hope. Most of us know one or two authors who’ve made it, who travel to the south of France yearly and get six-figure checks and the adulation of readers. We hope to transcend ourselves, to obtain with our creations what we can’t find personally. We look to be revealed while hiding in our tale. I’d be willing to bet that most writers would be willing to be left behind if only their works could forge ahead. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Infrastructure? What Infrastructure?

Sitting in a friend’s car, the heated seats warming my butt, drinking Starbucks coffee. The morning’s Washington Post features a front-page story on the decay of the nation’s water and sewage system. This is not a new problem. Even a casual study of the country’s infrastructure—its schools, roads, tunnels and bridges, waterways, electrical grid, waste treatment plants, landfills—shows we’re reaching a tipping point. In the not-at-all distant future, disaster will strike. The power grid has already proven fallible as anyone living in states where the average snowfall exceeds a foot can attest, having been victim to outages, and the resultant lack of power and heat.

Roads are becoming Third World parodies, patchworks of filled potholes and collapsed shoulders.  Our belief that more roads will ease our transportation woes is ridiculous on the face of it—more roads mean more people and more cars—yet we continue to build, to create impermeable surfaces that allow water runoffs that in turn pollute rivers, bays and oceans.

The imminent failures of the water delivery and sewage systems pose particularly frightful problems. There is already an estimated 30 percent delivery loss of water from reservoir to tap. In some areas, the aquifer is polluted and the water unsafe to drink or cook with. We already know a little about antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and have few weapons against incapacitating viruses. As the sewage system fails and further infects the environment, we run a serious risk of epidemic illness and infection borne by water or, as in the plague years of the Middle Ages, rats and attendant vermin. It’s estimated that in larger cities such as New York, there are nine rates per single human inhabitant, and that population is not simply growing, it is exploding.

In brief, what is happening is that the system is getting away from us.  We use too much and pay too little. In an editorial following the August, 2008, collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minnesota, Stephen Flynn, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of The Edge of Disaster: Rebuilding a Resilient Nation, wrote: “Age and heavy use are by no means isolated conditions. According to a report card released in 2005 by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), 160,570 bridges, or just over one-quarter of the nation's 590,750-bridge inventory, were rated structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. The nation's bridges are being called upon to serve a population that has grown from 200 million to over 300 million since the time the first vehicles rolled across the I-35W bridge. Predictably that has translated into lots more cars. American commuters now spend 3.5 billion hours a year stuck in traffic, at a cost to the economy of $63.2 billion a year.”

He adds, “Americans have been squandering the infrastructure legacy bequeathed to us by earlier generations. Like the spoiled offspring of well-off parents, we behave as though we have no idea what is required to sustain the quality of our daily lives. Our electricity comes to us via a decades-old system of power generators, transformers and transmission lines—a system that has utility executives holding their collective breath on every hot day in July and August. We once had a transportation system that was the envy of the world. Now we are better known for our congested highways, second-rate ports, third-rate passenger trains and a primitive air traffic control system. Many of the great public works projects of the 20th century—dams and canal locks, bridges and tunnels, aquifers and aqueducts, and even the Eisenhower interstate highway system—are at or beyond their designed life span.”

What it comes down to is that we’ve overlooked taking care of the basics. We’re in denial about the health of the country as we are in denial about so many other things. And denial, we know, is a dangerous thing, for individuals as well as for nations. We’ve become a reactive rather than active society, which means we will undoubtedly wait for the next disaster to strike before our largely ineffectual elected officials decide that yes, now it the time to repair our (insert choice of infrastructure need of repair or replacement here) before it’s too late. But it already will be.